About to fail? Don’t worry, JAMES MITCHELL is here to help with some worldly wisdom.

“Just sat an exam? How did it go?”

The inevitable, post-exam question – we’ve all asked and been asked it.

Social etiquette dictates that if someone responds in a dejected manner, the person asking is required to offer some consolatory or encouraging words. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure you did better than you thought” for example, or “I’ve heard that examiners award extra marks for filling in your name correctly”.

Only a monster would start pointing and laughing at you as you exited the exam hall, Nelson Muntz style.

However, some of you reading this may very well have done badly in your exams. It’s possible that some may even have failed. If you have, you probably know it already. So, being told “it’s all going to be alright” is not going to ease the anxiety or sense of impending doom. That’s what I’m here for.

I turned twenty-three last weekend, despite still being a first-year undergraduate (have I mentioned this before?). My age and lack of occupation is a favourite topic of conversation at home. My mother will often say things like, “Can you believe Sebastian Vettel is the F1 world champion?” before adding, with a distinctly disappointed look on her face, “and he’s only twenty-two. Oh well, never mind”.

When I meet up with my friends from school or even the people who started with me at the LSE five or six years ago, they tell me about their new jobs in the city, their recent engagements, and most frighteningly of all, their plans to settle down and have children. All I can manage is a brief moan about having to get out of bed for a lecture at noon and not having enough TV to watch now that Glee and House have ended.

On reflection, I wouldn’t swap my life for theirs. Mess up your exams, and you too could become a perpetual student.

You might not be convinced. You might well share my parents’ view that I have wasted almost 25% of my life to date. But I have no regrets about the path I’ve taken. My prolonged spell at university has brought me many new and wonderful friends. And the smattering of Farsi I picked up last year still manages to win (condescending) praise from some cabbies and girls of Middle Eastern descent.

Rudyard Kipling’s invitation to treat triumph and disaster just the same is – not to put too fine a point on it – absolute bollocks. I know what he had in mind: with a stiff upper lip, the true man should dismiss both, without showing pride or disappointment (as the case may require). But only a soulless automaton would be able to feel no misery at failure and no joy at success. Dealing with failure requires a measure of perspective and some optimism which, when mastered, might even leave you in a better place than a dose of success.

But if you are to fail, rest assured that Cambridge is one of the best places to do it. It’s akin to having a heart attack outside the cardiac wing of Addenbrooke’s. Once you’ve been accepted, Cambridge will do their utmost to help you get back on the right track.

When I was heading for ignominious failure in my course last year, I initially felt utterly hopeless. I was, however, shown nothing but kindness and given plenty of time to consider my options (which were far more extensive than I had imagined). I eventually decided that I wanted to reapply for History, and I was given time to prepare and sit an exam and interview, making the whole process as painless as possible.

Most of you aren’t going to fail and this column might have little resonance. However, if you have just returned from an exam that didn’t go so well; slumped yourself in front of the computer; and opened up The Tab for some light relief, then take heart. It could be worse.

You could be a man-child approaching his mid-20s nowhere near completing an undergraduate degree.

On the other hand, you may be a little closer to getting your own column on this website.

As they say, every cloud….

  • Exam Tomorrow

    I feel better already.

  • Kipling

    is a twat. This article is exactly what I needed to hear.

  • Ambrose

    Best Tab columnist by a Country mile. What’s next after history?

  • Ambrose

    Best Tab columnist by a Country Mile – what's next after History?

  • This

    Is just good

  • Pooface

    pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface pooface

    • Thank God

      our posts are moderated.

  • A Big Fan

    is what I need; my room is excessively hot.

  • This is

    Great

  • Centenary

    '…almost 25% of my life to date.' Either you're an optimist or you're far healthier than I am.

    • Don't do maths but..

      If we accept that he's twenty-three, 25% of his life TO DATE is 5.75 years. So he has spent just under 25% of his time at university (if he started at 18). Why does that make him healthier or more optimistic?

      Am I missing something?

    • congratulations

      you are almost certainly going to fail your exams

      • bleh

        he's a first year historian. ergo, no exams.

        • You're an

          Idiot.

  • I hate it

    when you get to the end of such a great article.

  • Engineer

    Fail in Cambridge = Addenbrookes. Fail in CUED = Morgue. Darling, you're a goner.

  • Rach

    You don't fail at writing. I think you should stick with this one. Your articles are always interesting and engaging.

    • Anonymous

      I completely agree, he doesn’t fail at writing does he?! Engaging is certainly a word I would use, I read this article as if it was a letter from God.

  • Alternatively

    When you fail (in second year) Cambridge will do absolutely fuck all to help you. Instead they will phone you up. Tell you you can't return to study at Cambridge, promise they'll help you get a place somewhere else and then do fuck all to help you.

    • to be honest

      If you actually fail, then why should the University have to help you? They do not help people they rejected at interview find a place elsewhere.

  • what is demoralising

    …is when you get about halfway through your papers, with the pressure still high, but the knowledge that you are unlikely to raise your classmark, yet have every chance of lowering it if you do something stupid on the day.